Community Legal Services is working to ensure low-income Philadelphians have access to important medical, food, and income support benefits through local County Assistance Offices during the coronavirus crisis. CLS has a unique model that allows us to hear directly from people that are impacted by this crisis, so we can advocate for big change to help people in need.
One March 17th, we submitted this letter signed by 70 organizations across the state of Pennsylvania requesting that the Department of Human Services make specific changes to the Medical Assistance, SNAP (formerly food stamps), TANF cash assistance, and LIHEAP program rules to increase flexibility and access during this critical time.
The Department of Human Services responded with this letter and has implemented many of our recommendations. We have included important changes below and will continue to update this page as new changes are put into place.
New Rules at the County Assistance Office during the COVID-19 Emergency
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has put into place new rules to ensure people have continued access to Medical Assistance, SNAP (formerly food stamps), cash assistance, and energy assistance during the COVID-19 state of emergency.
County Assistance Offices (CAOs) closed to the public
- CAO workers are still working. (Unsung heroes!)
- In Philadelphia, drop boxes have been placed outside each office and are open 8 AM – 5 PM Monday – Friday.
- New applications are being processed.
- People are encouraged to use the online and phone services to provide documentation:
- COMPASS website
- Mobile App: MyCompassPA (to report changes)
- Customer Service Centers: Phila — 215-560-7226; Statewide — 877-395-8930
No Medical Assistance terminations
No one will be terminated from Medical Assistance, Long Term Care, or Home and Community Based Services except for the following circumstances:
A person is no longer a resident of Pennsylvania
A person asks for their case to be closed
A person has died
SNAP renewals will be delayed, but benefits will continue
- All SNAP (formerly food stamps) will be delayed 6 months.
- Semi-annual reports are also delayed 6 months.
No SNAP or TANF terminations for failure to submit information
- No SNAP or TANF cases will be terminated for failure to submit information.
- We advise to submit what you can, but don’t worry if you cannot.
- A person may be terminated from TANF for failure to complete an interview. All interviews are being done over the phone.
No sanctions or terminations for failure to participate in TANF work requirements
- The EARN centers may be encouraging remote activities, but no one will be sanctioned or terminated for failure to participate.
- TANF interviews will be conducted via telephone.
County Assistance Offices will use flexibility in verification processes
- Medical Assistance: the CAO will accept your statement as verification for everything
- Verification of citizenship/alien status may still be requested.
- All other benefits:
- Your statement accepted as proof of loss of wages or zero income.
- For other verification, if you cannot provide it, tell the CAO! The CAO will try to get it for you. If that does not work, the CAO will accept your statement as proof.
Appeal Deadlines Extended
- All appeal deadlines have been extended 60 days.